A registration exercise was launched on Saturday as the county prepares to sue the British government over forceful eviction of the Kipsigis and Talai communities.
This is part of the activities lined up as the county prepares for the Sh1 trillion suit it intends to file against the British government for human rights violation committed against these communities during the colonial period.
Over 5,000 members of the Kipsigis community and Talai clan drawn from Kericho, Bomet, Nakuru, Narok, Nandi, Laikipia counties and a representation from the diaspora turned up for the exercise at Kericho Green Stadium.
Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony said the sum sought is compensation for the over one million acres of land in Kericho and Bomet which were forcefully taken away by the British.
“For over a 100 years, members of the Kipsigis community and the Talai clan have been exposed to poverty after losing their vast pieces of land. This is why we are seeking compensation for this group of a sum of not less than a trillion shillings,” the governor said.
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Mr Chepkowny said the amount was an offshoot of the Sh150 billion demanded in 2005, but was ignored by the British government.
“We are now telling the British that this amount has since accrued interest,” Chepkwony said.
Besides monetary compensation, the governor said they would, through a team of county lawyers led by Joel Bosek, county attorney Gideon Mutai and a British counsel, also be seeking a formal apology from her majesty the queen.
“It was during her reign when these violations against members of the Kipsigis and the Talai clan were committed,” Chepkwony said.
He said they expect to register, free of charge, over 20,000 victims at the end of the one month registration period and would thereafter commence filling the case at the British High Court.
Events that led to this suit being filed originate from going-ons that transpired at the end of Koitalel arap Samoe’s colonial resistance of British colonialists in 1905.
The Kipsigis, like their Nandi counterparts, were forcefully evicted from their fertile ancestral lands and resettled in crowded reserves in drier and less fertile areas.
It is alleged that thousands of rural communities, previously occupying the land, were forcefully removed from their property at gun point and consigned to drought stricken and unproductive areas within the two counties which impoverished them.
This eviction was, reportedly, to pave way for the British settlements and multinational tea corporations that began introducing tea plantations in 1910.
Currently, some of the largest multinational tea companies include Unilever Kenya, Scotish firm-James Finlay and Williamson with several tea estates occupying thousands of acres both in Kericho and Bomet Counties.
There are more than 45 large tea estates and over 30 tea green leaves processing factories which employ over 40,000 people and make a killing exporting the tea with the United Kingdom being the largest market.
The workers’ wages are peanuts compared to the hundreds of millions of shillings in net profit that the companies make every financial year and this has caused discontent among locals who feel they should be given back “their land”.
The governor however, clarified that the case being launched is against the British government and not against the local multi-national tea companies.
Chepkwony warned the British government to prepare for a gigantic legal battle “never before witnessed at their law courts”.
Kipsigis Council of Elders Chairman Paul Leleito said they support the county government’s move to sue for atrocities committed by the colonial government.
A spokesman of the Talai clan, Joseph Eli Sigilai, commended the county assembly for giving the lawsuit a go-ahead hence paving way for the justice quest to begin.
Ward reps, led by Livingstone Kipkoech, said there would be no turning back.
“This marks the beginning of a new dawn and puts to shame whoever doubted our resolve,” he said.